Sunday, December 19, 2010

Multiple Levels of Intelligence

Written by Ms. Berman

It is a bittersweet time of the school year as the college acceptances/deferments/rejections start to appear on the internet.  Long gone are the days of waiting for the mailman to arrive at the home.  Now it is a precise day and time in which a school "goes online."  With texting and Facebook, the results are known to all, even us teachers, within a matter of minutes.   It feels so dramatic at the moment, but I know that each student will be accepted into his or her "right" school by the end of March.  Unfortunately, despite the personal statement and letters of recommendation, what the application process traditionally highlights are two of the eight levels of intelligence.  It was brought to my attention last week that some students were not aware of the "multiple levels of intelligence," so here is my opportunity to enlighten you.  Note that most people exhibit several aspects of the following categories, with some more predominant than others.  Intelligence, as defined in 1983 by  Dr. Howard Gardner, professor of education at Harvard University, can be classified as follows:
·       Linguistic (verbal acuity, such as lawyers and writers)
·       Logical-mathematical (skilled in logic and reasoning, such as scientists and mathematicians)  
·       Spatial (ability to visualize, such as an architect)
·       Bodily-Kinesthetic (precise control over movement, such as dancers and surgeons)
·       Musical (sense of rhythm and tone, such as a composer)
·       Interpersonal (interacts well with people, such as social workers and teachers)
·       Intrapersonal (self-reflective, such as a psychologist)
·       Naturalist (relates well to natural surroundings, such as an environmentalist)
·       Existential (contemplates philosophical questions beyond the normal realm, such a a philosopher)
Clearly our educational system, in its current structure, focuses upon the teaching and testing of the first two types of intelligence.  But what about the student who has amazing insight and an ability to connect with other people, regardless of their age or what clique they belong to?  No SAT exam will measure this essential intellectual capacity that is valued in so many professions.  It is for this reason that I push certain students to apply for summer internships... to see that although they might not be at the top of the class in IB Biology or Honors Chemistry, they will shine when they get into the work force and have to navigate through real life dilemmas (they have been doing it since preschool). 
Reflection for my readers: Think about someone you know who demonstrates talent in one of the areas of intelligence that is not readily recognized by society.  Describe what it is about this person that makes him/her so special.  Although names should remain anonymous, be sure to tell this person you are writing in their honor.  You would be surprised how many people are unaware of their giftedness. 


  1. I was happy to hear recently that the GREs (Graduate Record Exams) will not only be a test but also an interview. When I took the GREs in 2009, it didn't take into account my learning disability or that I had 12 years of work experience. All it tested was if I could take a test. And for the record, no job has ever asked me to find the arc of a circle and I was a computer programmer. I studied for the GREs and was pleased with my score. I was 10 points below the cut off for the program I was interested in, but they accepted me anyway and I was on academic probation for the first year. I managed 5 As and 1 A-. So what did it really show? I don't think it showed much at all. I've known people who have gotten perfect scores on their SATs and they don't have very good social skills and have never been able to hold a job for very long.

    My learning disability wasn't caught until college. My eyes don't meet in the same spot so my brain spends a lot of time telling my eyes to focus. I don't always pick up what I am supposed to the first time I read something, but I eventually get it. I struggled taking tests because we didn't know that it was a physical problem. I have gone through eye therapy and have trained my eyes to focus more effectively. I have also surprised the Doctors when I tell them I was a computer programmer. They wonder how I did it with such a disadvantage. I guess because I learned how to work around it.

    I know that I don't have the intelligence that people can see. I have practical skills and I can see the big picture. I may not have the ability to solve some of the world's issues, but I do have an intelligence where I am organized, consciencious, hard-working, persistant etc. Those can't be tested. I'm not sure how we should test it, but there has to be a better way.

  2. i must say, that while I have to respect Dr. Howard Gardner on how he has classified intelligence, I have questions (and my own assumptions, which i wont necessarily share, as they are my own) as to his list.
    For example:
    where do natural intelligence (such as those who sometimes know something works, without having any reason to) and understanding fit? Fashion comes to mind with natural intelligence and understanding. how is it that a person knows what will or will not look good on another person? while some may say that this is not intelligence in the first place, keep in mind that interpersonal intelligence is a category Dr. Gardner has on his list, but that could just be called 'people skills' and not intelligence. Going back to the example, how does a person like Rachel Zoe know what looks good on a person, and how do you know when you've reached that outfit? where does that fit on the list? it doesn't necessarily fit under interpersonal, as you don't need people skills to dress them (mannequins come to mind). it doesn't fit under spacial (as your not necessarily designing a space, but coloring a persons appearance). is it existential as fashion is more about personal aesthetics? or perhaps under a category that Dr. Gardner never thought of?

    how can he ( Dr. Gardner) separate these (above) intelligences when they are so interconnected? a sculptor (who, you would think, should primarily be of spacial intelligence) must also be of the logic-reasoning intelligence (mathematics plays a large role in certain sculptural works) as well as naturalist (sculptures are made to go with a certain environment, so the artist must be able to make the sculpture for that environment). While a lawyer is, generally speaking, very logical (though the laws may not be), that does not mean they are all good at math. also, lawyers mainly interact with people, therefore most have relatively good interpersonal intelligence.
    to separate intelligence into categories and label them like muscles is, at best, a misguided effort in the understanding of how the mind works, and a presumptuous assumption of intelligence that leaves out room for other. i have a feeling it is the former. let us say, for the sake of future arguments and headaches that will no doubt come from this, that we know far too little of how the mind works to be able to 'pin down' intelligences.
    (hypothetical) if we tell children 'these are the intelligences of the world and this is it', and that they (the children) have 1( or more of these) intelligences, will that not (supposedly) confuse them if they are smart in certain ways that aren't on this list? better to let them be smart where they are/can be than to narrow down what they can do into 9 categories.
    As to showing intelligence on a piece of paper, most people should know by now that it doesn't take much intelligence to spit back out the facts they desire. to be able to take those facts and knowledge and use it in a new way, however, shows more intelligence than can ever be on paper.
    (btw, im not too sure what exactly i just wrote, but it does sound smart in my head)

  3. Robert: You just demonstrated a wonderful example of analytical intelligence (another category left behind). Although I tend to agree with you on a philosophical level, the reality is that society does not. We are a test-driven society and students are evaluated regularly but their output. The point of this post, as I am sure you have gathered, is to remind everyone that intelligence comes in many forms.

  4. While reading this I couldn't figure out which catagory 'd fit under. I think that if I did figure it out, I could go from there and figure out what I might major in.
    I'm not that Linguistic because my writing is mostly too informal and only mediocre. I prefer to say things how they are.
    I'm not that Logical-mathematical because while my reasoning skills are pretty good when it comes to making something electronic or constructive, but I'm not great at math, and I dislike it.
    I'm not that Spatial but I think i can visualize most things.
    When I am Bodily-Kinesthetic, it is usually involving some form of putting together tiny parts like art
    To make a long story short, I agree with Robert on how no everyone or everything can be based of of those 9 topics. I think that When one is evaluated, they should look at all of those and even more.